The Media’s Obsession with Hydroxychloroquine and Donald Trump

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The latest mainstream media obsession with President Donald Trump relates to his urging use of the long-time drug hydroxychloroquine.
 
As The Hill reports, “President Trump on Sunday forcefully touted the use of hydroxychloroquine …, wading further into a medical debate that has put him at odds with some of his top health experts.”
 
The media love to remind us that Trump isn’t a doctor, as if anyone was confused about that issue. But The Hill’s Brett Samuels says he’s playing one: “But Sunday’s comments marked the furthest he has veered into playing armchair doctor.”
 
I am not a medical doctor either, but I did serve 10 years on a medical school’s institutional review board (IRB) for human experimentation.  Human-related clinical trials are typically reviewed and approved by an IRB.
 
Phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials are considered the gold standard—i.e., randomly assigning patients to a group where neither the health care providers nor patients know whether they are receiving the active medicine or a placebo.
 
That’s what doctors want in order to confirm an investigational drug is safe AND effective—and how effective it may be.
 
Thus, Trump’s leading epidemiologist, Dr. Fauci, and many other doctors are often reluctant to tout a medicine’s efficacy unless it has run the gold-standard gauntlet‚ which is both reasonable and prudent.
 
However, Phase III trials take time, and dying patients don’t have much of that.
 
So it’s useful information when multiple doctors in the field, who are actively treating patients with a drug, describe their success—or failures. 
 
For example, San Francisco’s ABC 7 News interviewed Dr. Anthony Cardillo, who has been prescribing hydroxychloroquine in combination with zinc. “Every patient I’ve prescribed it to has been very, very ill and within 8 to 12 hours, they were basically symptom-free,” Cardillo told Eyewitness News. “So clinically I am seeing a resolution.”
 
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, two doctors, one a former Kansas governor, assert, “Our experience suggests that hydroxychloroquine, with or without a Z-Pak, should be a first-line treatment.”
 
And then Dr. Stephen Smith, founder of the Smith Center for Infectious Diseases and Urban Health and who has been treating 72 COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, “I think this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic. I’m very serious.” 
 
Clinical trials may tell us later how effective the treatment is, what doses and combinations work best, and whether it is more effective on milder or severe cases.
 
But until then the best information we have is from doctors treating COVID-19 patients and patients themselves.

Many of them are seeing positive results from hydroxychloroquine—and the president is only highlighting those findings.
 
That’s helpful, which is more than we can say for the media’s Trump “gotcha” obsession.

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